Baldur’s Gate 3 takes you and your companions on an adventure spanning from the fiery depths of Avernus, through the lush forests of the Emerald Grove and the gloom of the Underdark, all the way to the shining city of Baldur’s Gate. Despite all the places we end up in though, we really don’t get a lot of context as to how one place relates to the other. We don’t even know what continent we’re in or if we’re in anything that can be called a country.
For that matter, the place where we start the game is unclear. Baldur’s Gate is obviously on the Sword Coast — a familiar name to anyone who plays Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) — but everything else is unclear. So, let’s pinpoint exactly where Baldur’s Gate 3 takes place.
Baldur’s Gate 3’s world is called the Forgotten Realms
For the non-D&D nerds, Baldur’s Gate 3‘s events happen in the Forgotten Realms, one of the many settings of Dungeons & Dragons‘ campaign modules. The Forgotten Realms is where most of the 5th Edition of the game’s adventures take place. The setting was created by fantasy writer Ed Greenwood back when he was only 5 years old, according to an interview with Campfire Writing. The Forgotten Realms is meant to be an alternate dimension version of our own Earth, one where magic is real and fantasy races exist shoulder to shoulder with regular humans.
The Forgotten Realms lost their connection to our world which is why Greenwood decided to call the setting by its name. It’s forgotten by people on our Earth.
Like our Earth, the Forgotten Realms is a planet with multiple continents. Most of the adventures we see from the Dungeons & Dragons IP are set in the Forgotten Realms, including Baldur’s Gate 3, the Neverwinter games, and the recent Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) film.
Specifically, Baldur’s Gate 3 takes place on the Sword Coast, Faerun
Baldur’s Gate 3 starts in the city of Yartar, a city located east of Neverwinter just north of the Sword Coast, in a region known as the Savage Frontier. After we wake up, we find ourselves flying through the infernal skies of Avernus on an Illithid ship, one of the many planes of existence in the Forgotten Realms (for simplicity’s sake, we won’t get into D&D cosmology). We eventually manage to fly the ship out of Avernus and onto regular ‘ole Faerun.
Act 1 of Baldur’s Gate 3 is set in Elturgard, one of the kingdoms in the Western Heartlands of Faerun. We know it’s Elturgard because we have the River Chiontar to orient ourselves with and Zevlor tells us that the Tiefling refugees come from the city of Elturel, Elturgard’s capital. The Tieflings became refugees because Elturel’s citizens hated Tieflings after the city was dragged into Avernus during the events of the Descent to Avernus.
Toward the end of Act 1, we travel through the Underdark, an expansive cave system located beneath the realms. It’s as big and expansive as the surface world, but we only get a taste of it in Baldur’s Gate 3. We don’t venture too far nor do we see any major cities, so we are likely in the Upperdark, the top layer of the Underdark.
After we exit the Underdark, Act 2 of Baldur’s Gate 3 is set in the Shadow Cursed lands and takes us to Moonrise Towers. Moonrise Towers is on the banks of the River Chiontar. A lot of the locations we go through aren’t canon to the 5e D&D universe (like the Risen Road and Waukeen’s Rest), but Moonrise Towers is.
As the game’s loading screen says, the River Chiontar flows from Iriaebor all the way to Baldur’s Gate, so we are just walking down the river (or down, down, down by the river) all the way to Baldur’s Gate.
It’s only in Act 3 that we get to Baldur’s Gate and even then, we only see a small sneak peak of the city through the Lower City. For a game that’s named after a city, we don’t really spend a lot of time in said city.
We instead spend most of our playthrough trying to get to Baldur’s Gate in the first place just like the refugees. When we get to the House of Healing in the Shadow Cursed lands, we also get clues that the people there left (or died trying) to go to Baldur’s Gate.
It makes sense that everyone is trying to run to Baldur’s Gate because it’s a big city with massive fortifications. It’s also the largest city on the Sword Coast and is kept safe by a constabulary that functions as its own standing army. If anyone’s going to protect you from mind flayers, it’s probably this place.
Other places we might visit in a Baldur’s Gate 3 expansion
The Sword Coast is massive. We don’t have to look far for other locations where Baldur’s Gate 3 DLCs can take us to. Now that Larian has changed their mind about adding a DLC to the game, we might see more of the Dungeons and Dragons‘ 5th Edition modules in video game format. Here are a few settings that a new Baldur’s Gate 3 DLC might take place in:
The city of Waterdeep is prominent in the world of Faerun. It’s the home of our companion Gale and the setting of a 5E module Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
The titular dragon isn’t an actual dragon but the ill-gotten hoard of gold coins (called dragons) that was embezzled by a former Waterdeep official. As your party looks for the treasure in question, they’ll go up against the criminal underworld of Waterdeep and the dozens of other factions who have skin in the game. It would be a welcome change of pace to actually spend time inside a city instead of bumbling through forests and caves.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden would take our party far north of Faerun in search of a dark magical source and a way to save the civilization of Ten-Towns from the endless frost and night of the Frostmaiden. For shorter content, Larian could have us play through the D&D one shot, Frozen Sick.
Another massive city in Faerun, Neverwinter is the shining Jewel of the North that is known for being the most advanced city in its corner of Faerun. Neverwinter currently doesn’t have any 5E modules for Larian to base their game on, but that’s what makes it a good contender: it doesn’t lock them into an existing story.
Larian did a fantastic job with the Shadow Cursed lands in Act 2 of Baldur’s Gate 3 so if they’re looking to make a DLC, their best bet is Curse of Strahd. Set in the ancient kingdom of Barovia (or a demiplane, depending on who you ask), Curse of Strahd is a horror adventure that traps your party in a world where their lifeforce is constantly being sapped by a tyrannical vampire lord, Strahd von Zarovich. Their only way out? Fight him and kill him.